The term “influencer marketing” gets thrown around a lot these days, and it feels like it’s the new kid on the block. But in reality, brands paid more than $1 billion last year for influencer campaigns. Also, the idea of using popular or famous people to promote products has been around since the 1940s.
If you're one of those brands that hasn’t started using influencers yet, and is looking for a way to boost your Instagram efforts in 2018, then this post is for you.
What is Influencer Marketing, and How Does It Work?
Influencer marketing is a type of marketing that takes word-of-mouth to the next level.
With the popularization of social media, any person can put out great content and build a following - brands can then use their established influence to promote their products and capture the attention of their loyal following.
Various studies have shown that working with influencers can be more effective than using celebrities in traditional advertising - for example, 70% of teenage YouTube subscribers trust influencers’ opinions over traditional celebrities.
Also, influencers are more accessible than celebrities. A small business can easily locate relevant influencers and market their product or service to tens of thousands of people inexpensively.
The most popular platform for influencers is Instagram, where everything is all about visual content. Influencers will get paid by a brand to post something about it - either using the product, showing the product, or talking about it. Their loyal followers then engage with that content, boosting your marketing reach.
If you want to grow your brand in 2018, here are five approaches to working with influencers on Instagram that you should try:
1. Expand reach with user-generated content
The goal of your influencer campaign is for it to go viral. Plain and simple, you want maximum engagement and reach for every post about your brand. One of the best ways to do that is to encourage people to create their own content about your brand.
The secret to this strategy is to have an overall campaign message that can be encapsulated in a catchy hashtag, and include a description prompting users to create their own content using that same tag.
One recent example of this is the campaign conducted by Frank Body, an Australian skin care company that promotes natural products. They used the catchy hashtag #letsbefrank and hired a bunch of influencers to promote their coffee scrub products. They also urged people to create their own content.
Lo and behold, there were hundreds of posts all over Instagram showing people scrubbing themselves with coffee grinds and taking selfies with the #letsbefrank hashtag. The campaign was successful largely because of how easy it was for users to create their own content.
Pro Tip: if you want to boost your reach 10x, you should ask people to tag your brand in their own posts, and then offer a reward for the most creative user-generated post. Make it a competition, and you'll likely see a significant boost in engagement and ROI for your influencer campaign.
2. Experiment with multiple mediums
Another great way to achieve high ROI from Instagram influencers is by using multiple platforms. A lot of influencers have followers on multiple platforms - such as Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, and Pinterest. A post on Instagram can be used as a gateway to broader promotion of your product.
For example, Gillette recently hired several female beauty influencers to promote their new shaving line Gillette Venus. The campaign had a brilliant twist - the Instagram influencers used their posts to drive traffic to a longer video promotion of the product.
The campaign used the catchy hashtag #ChooseToSmooth, and achieved an engagement rate of 2.2%, reaching more than 476,000 people.
3. Use an influencer marketplace
One really brilliant way to find and work with the ideal influencer to work with is by using an influencer marketing platform or tool.
There's a range of advantages to using an influencer marketing tool:
Improve your influencer search with filters and pre-vetted influencers
Easily access analytics for each campaign
Automate your billing and you won’t have to worry about
Grin, for example, can be used automate your influencer search, display analytics, and to simplify billing for your campaign.
4. Work with a team of micro-influencers
This is one of my favorite influencer tactics. Working with celebrities can get expensive, so a growing number of brands are now looking to work with several micro-influencers to generate the same reach as they would have by working with one high-profile name.
Reach is important, but engagement is even more vital to the success of an influencer campaign - engagement is the measure of how engaged and active an influencer’s audience is. One way to calculate the engagement rate for a particular post is to you use this formula:
Engagement rate = # of likes + # of comments / # of followers
Take the average of the engagement rate on 3-5 non-promotional posts to get a sense for how engaged an audience is.
Micro-influencers typically have less reach but much more engaged audiences (6% compared to the average 1.6% for celebrities), so if you combine a few of these smaller influencers together, you can get the same reach as you would working with a celebrity, but a lot more engagement.
One example of this is a campaign that Microsoft ran with National Geographic for International Women’s Day. They hired several of the top female adventure photographers for the campaign. National Geographic actually has a variety of profiles on Instagram and a sprawling network of influencers that work with the brand.
The influencer team created 30 stunning photos which were posted on five different National Geographic channels on Instagram. Each photo featured a story about a famous female adventurer or scientist and had the caption: “@Microsoft - Empowering girls to change the world, stay in STEM, and be the ones to #MakeWhatsNext.”
The results were incredible - the campaign generate 3.5 million likes, reached over 91 million people, and saw the creation of over 1,000 pieces of user-generated content.
The tactic of using several nature photography influencers to tell stories under the same theme, combined with the user-generated content, made this campaign one of the most successful influencer initiatives to date.
5. Position yourself for different audiences
Every brand has a story, and that story can be told from a range of different points of view.
Influencers on Instagram create a potent marketing channel because each one deals with a specific topic (or several), and typically attracts a very specific audience. This enables a business to cherry pick the audience, and the narrative that they want to tell.
It’s very powerful for a brand to use two different angles to tell the same story. What do I mean by that? Let me give you an example.
Last year, Mercedes-Benz came out with an incredible campaign to market their new 2017 GLS sport utility car - the company used two different influencers to create content on Instagram, and videos on YouTube.
One influencer they used was 'Loki the Wolfdog'. The influencer created stunning shots of the car in a snowy terrain, with the beautiful Siberian husky running alongside of it. That post did really well with people who like pets, the outdoors, and outdoor sports.
Another influencer that the car company used was famous chef Chris Coombs. For the campaign, he drove the car around gathering local ingredients for the day’s meal. This post did well with foodies, people who were into restaurants, and healthy food advocates.
The combined efforts of these two influencers generated 173 million impressions on Instagram, and 2.3 million likes and comments. It was successful because it used two distinct audiences to tell two stories, and promote the product in different ways.
Instagram influencers can be an incredible tool for any brand seeking to expand its reach and promote its products. And the best part is that there are so many creative ways to structure a campaign, and work with influencers that any brand can set one up and succeed.
Don’t limit yourself, try to explore as many possibilities as you can. Work with teams of influencers to maximize your outreach. Encourage users to generate their own content and see your engagement increase exponentially. Experiment with several mediums to convert more visitors.
The good news is that it is never too late to start. 2018 is going to be a huge year for Instagram, and Instagram influencers, so get started now.